Desert Hot Springs – Thanksgiving and Party Traditions

A month stay at one of our favorite RV parks provides many opportunities for rest and relaxation and to spend time with family for Thanksgiving. Special Christmas party traditions provide time to reflect on our health and the sacrifices medical staff and organ donors made for us.

Catalina Spa and RV Resort

For the three years that we have been full-time RVing, we have spent the holidays with the kids. The first year, Thanksgiving was at Ian’s and the last two years have been here at Catalina Spa and RV Resort in Desert Hot Springs, California.

Desert Hot Springs itself is small with less activity and shopping opportunities but Palm Springs is close enough to enable fun outings. One day we enjoyed a lunch feast at Sherman’s Deli in Palm Springs, which was featured on Drive-ins, Diners and Dives. Nearby at the Convention Center, we strolled through the cars for sale in the McCormick’s Palm Springs Classic Car Auction.

The Location

We love it here for many reasons but location is a primary focus for us at holiday time. Desert Hot Springs is close:

  • 20 minutes to Palm Springs
  • 2 hours to Ian’s place in Orange County, California
  • 4 hours to Megan’s in Tempe, Arizona
  • 1 hour to Joshua Tree National Park

The Pools

This quiet resort has plenty of activities along with two clubhouses complete with pools and spas that are all fed by the hot springs water that runs through the property. The pools are 95 degrees and the spas about 105 degrees, plenty warm for these cool winter evenings. Mineral-rich warm water without the typical sulfur smell associated with hot springs really revitalizes my spirit. My skin is always nourished by this magic healing water. Maybe I can figure out how to bottle it and take some with me!

The Birds

I put out the hummingbird feeders which are suction-cupped to the windows. Sweet hummingbirds quickly adopted the feeders providing endless entertainment right from our living room. Surprisingly, we found that  pretty Verdin likes sipping nectar along with the honey bees. The birds are oblivious to our presence inside the darkened windows of the RV which gave me ample photo opportunities.

The plentiful trees and bushes attract plenty of other birds and animals. We could hear the owls calling at night in between coyotes howls and yips. Megan and I saw a covey of quail on a walk in the wash next to the resort.

RV Community Happenings

We have been following several RVers on their You Tube channels for years. One of our favorites is RV Love who just happened to be hosting a watch party for a new show called The RVers at the resort the day after our arrival.

RV Geeks, Mortons on the Move and Technomadia bloggers are regular cast members on the new TV show. We enjoyed watching the premiere on The Discovery Channel with about 150 other enthusiasts who made it out to Catalina for the early morning viewing and breakfast. Peter and John of RV Geeks and the producer of the RVers, Anthony Nalli joined via video conference.

At RV Love’s “meet-up” later that night in Palm Springs, we hung out with fellow RVers and visited with Marc and Julie Bennett of RV Love and met Tom and Caitlyn of Mortons on the Move.

Although we have no permanent neighbors, we seem to find ways to connect with other RVers at events, meet-ups, rallies, tours and places that we like to hang out, like the desert. It’s a great community.

Thanksgiving with Family

Our kids, Ian and Megan came over for a few days which always warms my heart. We don’t spend as much time with them these days while we are moving around a lot and their lives are so busy. Food, games, swimming in the hot springs pool, walks, shopping and watching the hummingbirds at the feeders made some new memories for us.

Ian slept on the newly replaced airbed. We couldn’t repair the leak in the one that failed on our Polar Bear excursion. Megan pitched a tent on our site and loved sleeping on the cushy air mattress that was our work-around bed during that last trip with my parents when the airbed sprung a leak. Now the bed has become part of Megan’s camping gear!

Cooking in a Small Kitchen

Side dishes were prepared to order by Whole Foods natural grocery and warmed up in the Sous Vide while the turkey breast was cooking in the convection oven of our small kitchen. It’s amazing how adaptable we have become and what tricks we have found for nearly all things in the food prep department.

Our kitchen in the stick & brick house had more square footage than our entire RV and had more of everything – burners, ovens, prep spaces and serving spaces. No worry, we just unfurl the pull-out counter and pull-out table and we get creative heating up prepared side dishes with the sous vide and an extra induction burner. There is only a little bit of dancing around each other as we cook but it all comes together.

We are so thankful for each day with our loved ones near and far and the flexibility to see them in our travels.

Traditional Christmas Parties with Ian

Even though Ian’s house in Orange County is only a couple of hours away, I got a hotel room near him rather than driving back and forth to the desert after the parties. It would have been eight hours of driving for a one day visit just to go to one party. Staying over opened up more time to spend with Ian which is always a good thing.

Toy Drive Party

Ian and I attended an event called ‘Big Hearts for Little Hearts Toy Drive’ in memory of his cousin, Gregg Ohlhaver Jr. who had a congenital heart condition. The Ohlhavers open their house annually around their son’s birthday to host a party and toy drive for Childrens Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).

It was so nice to see family and some of Ian’s friends outside of the hospital atmosphere where I had last seen them during Ian’s transplant journey. I can’t imagine the Ohlhaver’s 30-year journey raising a son through all of the hospital procedures and experiences that he had. Serious illness is very difficult to live with, speaking from my own shorter experience with my son. Some emotional memories that I had stashed away found their way to the surface.

It was a lovely party with warm people and it got me in the mood for Christmas. Although, I had already put up my tiny tree in the RV even before Thanksgiving. Seeing the Ohlhaver’s decorations got me really inspired and nostalgic!

Transplant Program Party

UCLA Heart and Lung Transplant Program holds an annual holiday party honoring transplant recipients and the UCLA Transplant team. Speakers told of their journey and their gratefulness for another chance at life. I’m thankful for all of the family sacrifices the surgical teams and donor families endure to help our families spend more time together.

One in particular stands out, Dr. Ardehali – Ian’s surgeon and the head of the Transplant Program. Ian was so seriously ill that UCLA wasn’t sure he’d survive the transfer from USC Medical Center to their facility. They questioned if he could survive after transplant so they hesitated listing him for transplant. Dr. Ardehali took the chance to transfer him between hospitals and to put him on the list. Then he pushed Ian to continue walking (under horrendous conditions) to keep strong enough to survive the transplants. Dr. Ardehali is the reason Ian is here with us today and he’s my hero!

One speaker told how her sister always wanted to donate her organs but hadn’t put anything in writing. Her sister had a stroke while working out at the gym and her brain activity never recovered. The family splintered apart during this stressful time because their mother didn’t know her wishes and pushed back strongly against donation. Mom finally acquiesced and her organs saved five lives and her tissues enhanced many other lives. If you haven’t made it known, please tell your families your wishes and save them the pain of deciding. Donors can register here or click the logo at left.

Altogether, a couple of emotional parties that brought back memories of experiences that I’m not sure I’ve fully processed even 2 years 9 months after Ian’s transplant journey. We are thankful to be together!

Departure is Melancholy

During the last few days of our stay at Catalina Spa and RV Resort, we went up to Joshua Tree National Park which I wrote about in a separate upcoming article.

I’m already missing Catalina’s pools, the plentiful hummingbirds and sunsets against the mountains here. Honestly, I didn’t get enough time here but I am looking forward to a joyful visit with family in Tempe for Christmas.


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